Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Anniversary of the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas

This weekend will mark the 147th anniversary of the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas.

Also called the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern, this Civil War engagement was fought on March 7-8, 1862, over thousands of acres of land in the far northwest corner of Arkansas. The site is now preserved as the Pea Ridge National Military Park.

The battle was one of the largest engagements of the Civil War in the West and involved over 26,000 men. An estimated 3,000 were killed, wounded or captured.

Pea Ridge was of critical importance because it halted a Confederate drive to invade Missouri early in the war, preserving that state for the Union. Had General Earl Van Dorn achieved victory in the battle, his plan was to march as far north as St. Louis. Everything seemed in his favor as the fighting started. He had more men, more cannon and managed to steal a march around the right flank of General Samuel Curtis's Union army and attack it from behind.

It was not to be. Van Dorn lost complete control of his army during the fighting and to make matters worse had left vital supplies behind as he marched north out of the Boston Mountains. By the end of the first day's fighting, his army was battered, exhausted and running out of supplies.

Van Dorn's failures allowed General Curtis to achieve one of the great victories of the war. Even though he had been surprised by a rear attack, hard fighting by a small portion of his army allowed him to turn his entire force in time to drive the Confederates from the field in the second day of the battle.

Pea Ridge National Military Park now preserves more than 4,000 acres of critical battlefield and offers a visitor center, driving tour, walking trails, cannon, monuments and the restored Elkhorn Tavern. To learn more, please visit

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